Erich Kunzel / Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

The Big Picture

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Since his first recording of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" early in the digital era, Erich Kunzel and his engineers have been determined to blow out even the most durable speaker systems. This batch of extracts from the bumper crop of action films of the mid-'90s might be their most fevered attempt yet, as it is loaded with special-effects tracks and bottom-heavy orchestrations designed to make your subwoofer earn its keep. The real superhero of this CD may well be Telarc's bass-happy engineer Michael Bishop, whose practiced sound-effects wizardry thoroughly steals the show. The buildup to James Horner's "Apollo 13" is pretty dramatic, with the realistically crackling sounds of an Apollo launch and the ominously laconic radio transmission, "Houston, we have a problem." Later on, Telarc throws in the sounds of an F-16 fighter squadron streaking across the sky (Independence Day); a Los Angeles freeway (Speed); a vicious tornado (Twister); a stampede of elephants, gorillas, and other critters (Jumanji); and finally, for no apparent reason, another gut-churning tornado as a coda. As for the music, Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops bravely make their way through this inflated, cinematic fun house like accomplished pros, doing their best to mask the patchworks of fashionable filmland clichés that make up much of these excerpts. True, after a tub-thumping rendition of Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible theme kicks things off, Elliot Goldenthal's "Batman Forever" is full of interesting deep brass and percussion writing that plays right into Bishop's hands. But the level of musical interest trails off from there. After sitting through things like the blatant imitation-John Williams rhetoric of "Independence Day" and recycled main/end title gestures of Randy Edelman's "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Dragonheart," you're ready for some more distracting sound effects.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Mission Impossible, music for the television series
1 1:37
Batman Forever, suite from the film score
2 1:43
3 0:46
4 1:53
5 1:30
6 1:35
Apollo 13, film score
7 4:37
8 0:29
Speed, film score
9 3:42
10 4:56
Crimson Tide, film score
Independence Day, film score
13 4:51
Braveheart, film score
14 5:14
Cutthroat Island, film score
15 1:34
Twister, film score
16 5:22
Last of the Mohicans, film score
18 6:02
Dragonheart, film score
19 2:26
Executive Decision, film score
Stargate, film score
21 1:28
Jumanji, film score
22 7:13
23 4:02
Gettysburg, film score
24 1:51
blue highlight denotes track pick